Kalyn's Kitchen

Cafe Rio Salad Dressing

If you’ve had the creamy tomatillo dressing from Cafe Rio, this copycat recipe for Cafe Rio Salad Dressing can help you make it at home! And if you’re a fan of this creamy dressing from Cafe Rio, you’ll probably want to make it over and over.

PIN Cafe Rio Salad Dressing to try it later!

Cafe Rio Salad Dressing photo of finished dressing in bottle with text overlay

Every place has its own food culture, and if you live in Utah, Cafe Rio is a big part of that culture. I’ve loved the creamy tomatillo style of Cafe Rio Salad Dressing since the first time I tried it, and many years ago my brother-in-law Kelly gave me some copycat recipes for Cafe Rio Dressing, chicken, and rice, which I posted on my then brand-new food blog. This copycat recipe is the adapted version I’ve made over and over since then, and it really does taste just like the famous creamy Cafe Rio salad dressing. 

I love the slightly sharp tomatillo flavor that makes this Cafe Rio Style Creamy Tomatillo Dressing so good, and when I have lots of tomatillos, I sometimes increase the number of tomatillos and decrease the amount of buttermilk in the ranch dressing. Do that if you’re a tomatillo fan like me and you want more tomatillo flavor.

This dressing recipe is a big favorite in my huge extended family of Cafe Rio fans, so you know it must be good! Even if you’ve never been to Cafe Rio if you like these flavors I bet you’ll love this dressing. We’re just heading into salad weather, so for this week’s Friday Favorites pick I’m reminding you about this favorite salad dressing so many people have loved; enjoy!

Options for the Tomatillos in Cafe Rio Rio Salad Dressing:

The distinctive Tomatillo with a slightly tart and lemony flavor is one of the things that makes this dressing so good. I’ve seen various versions of this dressing around the web, sometimes with canned tomatillos but I always use fresh tomatillos when I make Cafe Rio Salad Dressing. However, there’s a note in the comments from someone who replaces the tomatillos with a little over a cup of Herdez Salsa Verde (affiliate link). I haven’t tried that myself, but I think it sounds great for a shortcut!

An anonymous commenter left the tip of roasting the tomatillos before using them in the dressing, but I’ve tried it both ways and still feel that the roasting step is completely optional. If you’re trying the version with roasted tomatillos, cut them up and roast for 15-20 minutes in a 400F oven. Watch them, and remove when they start to get barely browned.)

Cafe Rio Salad Dressing process shots collage

How to Make Cafe Rio Salad Dressing (Copycat Recipe):

  1. I usually use a package of Hidden Valley Ranch Buttermilk Style Salad Dressing Mix (affiliate link) for the base of this dressing, but you can make your own Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing or Buttermilk Dressing to use as the base if you prefer.
  2. Whichever version you’re using, mix up two cups of Ranch dressing in a small bowl. (If you’re using the package mix, it will seem thin because the dressing needs to chill for an hour or so. If you’re planning to increase the amount of tomatillos, remember to put a little less buttermilk or milk in the dressing.)  
  3. Here’s a photo of the tomatillos that add so much flavor to this recipe; remove the papery skins and chop them coarsely. 
  4. Remove large stems from the cilantro, wash and spin dry or dry with paper towels, then finely chop it in the food processor.
  5. Add the chopped tomatillos, garlic, lime juice, and Green Tabasco Sauce (affiliate link) or a small chopped jalapeno pepper and process about 30 seconds, until ingredients are finely pureed.
  6. Then add the 2 cups of Ranch dressing and pulse a few times, just until ingredients are well combined.
  7. Chill Cafe Rio Salad Dressing for an hour or two and serve!

Cafe Rio Salad Dressing thumbnail image of dressing in bottle

Some Salad Ideas with Cafe-Rio Flavors:

Copycat Cafe Rio Veggie Salad with Vegan Dressing ~ Happy Food Healthy Life
Chopped Chicken Salad with Cafe Rio Salad Dressing ~ Kalyn’s Kitchen
Pressure Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken Taco Salad ~ Pressure Cooking Today

Cafe Rio Salad Dressing Copycat Recipe

Cafe Rio Salad Dressing Copycat Recipe

Yield 20 servings
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes

This Cafe Rio Salad Dressing Copycat Recipe tastes just like the famous Creamy Tomatillo-Ranch Dressing at Cafe Rio!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups prepared Ranch Dressing (I usually use a packet of Hidden Valley Ranch buttermilk mix, but you can make your own; see notes.)
  • 1 small bunch cilantro, large stems removed (about 1/2 cup chopped cilantro)
  • 4 small tomatillos
  • 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 T fresh lime juice (see notes)
  • 1 tsp. Green Tabasco sauce or 1 small diced jalapeno pepper

Instructions

  1. Prepare Ranch dressing according to directions on the package or recipe you’re following and put in the fridge to chill. I use a package of Hidden Valley Ranch Buttermilk Style Salad Dressing Mix (affiliate link), but use any ranch dressing you prefer.
  2. If you have time, chill the dressing made from the package mix or homemade dressing for an hour or two so it can thicken.
  3. Remove papery skins from the tomatillos and coarsely chop.
  4. Remove large cilantro stems, then wash leaves and spin dry or dry with paper towels.
  5. Add cilantro to food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until finely chopped. (If you don’t have a food processor, I’d chop all ingredients well by hand and then blend dressing in a blender.)
  6. Add tomatillos, garlic, lime juice, and Green Tabasco Sauce (affiliate link) or chopped jalapeno to the food processor and pulse until ingredients are finely pureed.
  7. Add the 2 cups of prepared dressing and pulse just a few times, until ingredients are well combined.
  8. Chill dressing for an hour or two and serve.
  9. This makes about 2 1/2 cups dressing, or 20 servings if you use a serving size of two tablespoons.

Notes

Try Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing or Buttermilk Dressing if you prefer to make your own. I use my fresh-frozen lime juice.

Variations:

~To make a roasted tomatillo dressing, dice tomatillos, place on a baking sheet, and roast at 400F for 15-20 minutes before adding them to the food processor.

~If you’d like even more tomatillo flavor, use 4-5 large tomatillos and decrease the buttermilk or milk in the Ranch dressing by about 1/4 cup.

This recipe adapted from a very old recipe for Cafe Rio Dressing, Chicken, and Rice that I got from my brother-in-law Kelly. 

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

20

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 106Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 6mgSodium: 223mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 0gSugar: 1gProtein: 0g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated by the Recipe Plug-In I am using. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee 100% accuracy, since many variables affect those calculations.

If you make this recipe I'd love to hear how it turns out. Leave a star rating or share on social media with the hashtag #KALYNSKITCHEN, thanks!

Low-Carb Diet / Low-Glycemic Diet / South Beach Diet Suggestions:
This Cafe Rio Salad Dressing would be good for any phase of the original South Beach Diet, or most other types of low-carb eating plans. I often use this dressing on a salad with leftover roast chicken, which makes a great low-carb meal.

Find More Recipes Like This One:
Use Salads to find more recipes like this one. Use the Recipes by Diet Type index pages to find more recipes suitable for a specific eating plan. You can also Follow Kalyn’s Kitchen on Pinterest to see all the good recipes I’m sharing there.

Blogger Stuff:
This recipe was first posted for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Anna’s Cool Finds. Anna has some Utah roots, so I think she might have liked the recipe!

Pinterest image of Cafe Rio Salad Dressing

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    52 Comments on “Cafe Rio Salad Dressing”

  1. Would you get the same taste, if I was being lazy and bought green salsa and added it to the ranch dressing?

  2. This will stay good a little over a week in the fridge.

  3. I love, love, love this dressing. I got pregnant after moving out of Utah, and was craving Cafe Rio salads painfully. My question is; how long does this keep in the fridge? Not that I expect it to go uneaten for long, but just in case.

    Thank you!

  4. Leigh, I can't think of anything you could use instead of tomatillos, but they do come in cans. I think they are pretty widely available year round. Maybe try Latin market if you have one of those.

  5. This dressing looks amazing! This may seem like a strange question, but can I use anything to replace the tomatillos?? I've never seen them in our stores & would imagine them to be expensive as they are not "normal" around here. (in BC, Canada)
    Thanks

  6. Thanks Kristi. It is good on lots of different things. I really like it as a dip for sugar snap peas!

  7. I love the color of this dressing, and the simplicity. I can see all kinds of uses for it along with my favorite Mexican chicken salad.

    Kristi

  8. Nicole, that's just how I feel about Ranch dressing too. You MUST go to Cafe Rio if you're in Utah!

    Julie, that sounds easy and good!

  9. I love this dressing! I have a recipe that looks identical as far as the ingredients, but everything is just dumped into a blender together, including the Ranch dressing components, blended, and then chilled for a couple of hours.

  10. I've always loved "homemade" Buttermilk Hidden Valley Ranch dressing. Can't stand it from the bottle, but mixed from the packet, it's absolutely delicious. That combined with cilantro, tomatillo, and Tabasco Jalapeno sounds so good I think I'll make it for dinner tonight! Also, when I come visit, I want to check out Cafe Rio 🙂

  11. Krystal, I've been making it for years and loving it!

  12. so glad to have come across this (and to see you're in utah too!) I have been wanting to make it for a while!

    -Krystal @ recipesofacheapskate.blogspot.com

  13. You can be sure I will. I'll take a look in my personal recipe book!
    Regards from Spain!

  14. Yes, I can imagine there is no Cafe Rio in Spain. I don't really have time to individually swap recipes with anyone, but if you have an idea for a Spanish-inspired recipe that's South Beach Diet friendly you can send it to me through the e-mail at "how to contact Kalyn" and I'd love to try it out.

  15. I love your Blog! I'm a Cafe Rio fan too!

    I was living in SLC for a few months but now I come back to my country, Spain. I miss Utah so much, but unfortunately I cant go there now…

    I love to cook ,and If you are interested in Spanish recipes, please, let me know!!
    I will be happy to swap recipes with you!

    Thaks for your blog!

  16. I am Addicted to Cafe Rio and the real reason why is there house dressing. I glad you were able to decode their secret recipe. I tried it but I kind of just eyeballed the measurements of the ingredients and it turned out good but not cafe rio good. Thanks a lot tough, next time Ill try to be a little more precise.

  17. Erin, you're welcome! So glad you liked the recipes. No idea where these recipes actually were printed when my brother-in-law found them, but I think they're pretty close, especially the salad dressing!

  18. Thank you so much! I've looked for Cafe Rio recipes in the past and couldn't find what I was looking for: the dressing, the chicken, and the rice. I happened to google it again and found your recipes for all 3 of my favorite things at the restaurant! We recently moved out of Utah, so it was a like a little miracle that I found your awesome recipes! I just wanted to say thank you and that your recipes were great, I tried them all and it was almost like we were eating the real thing!

  19. The recap is published, it's always great to see your WHB posts!